Increase the Value of Webinars by Delivering More Than Your Audience Expects

If you asked members which of these experiences most resembles your association’s webinars, which would they choose?

A.    Lecture by a military historian on C-SPAN
B.    Obligatory semi-annual dental cleaning
C.    Talking shop at a chapter luncheon with tablemates, including the guest speaker 

If you chose A or B, I suggest sticking around to read the rest of this post. Even if you chose C, you might discover a new idea here.

Come to terms with the real value of your webinars

Attendees should leave your webinar feeling more energized, knowledgeable, and connected than when they arrived. That kind of impact translates to membership value if members attend for free and a good ROI if they pay.

But what if you’re not delivering that kind of value? Lucky for you, I recently attended a webinar, Create Revenue Producing Learning Opportunities Beyond Virtual Webinars, hosted by Professionals for Association Revenue. Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, co-founders of Tagoras and hosts of the Leading Learning podcast, shared ideas for increasing the value of webinars and other education programs.

Check out the helpful information on their website about plotting your education products on a Value Ramp. They identify essential factors for increasing the value—and, therefore, price—of products, like webinars.

Choose the best format for your purpose

If all you want to do is share information with your audience, there are better ways to do it than a webinar. Record a video they can watch in their spare time on your website, YouTube, or TikTok. Share the information in a blog post or newsletter.

People who show up for a webinar want an experience along with information. You’re inviting them to dedicate some of their limited time and attention to you and the information you’re offering. Honor that attention. 

They don’t want to just sit there and listen to someone talk. They know other people are there with them. Why can’t they connect, share, and talk with those people? 

Don’t think only the speaker adds value to the program. Attendees bring value too. They bring value to each other. Design a program that encourages them to do that. Otherwise, do a video instead. 

Don’t make the audience invisible. Use a platform that allows people to see the names or faces of other attendees. Zoom and other platforms have different levels of functionality. Keep up on what they’re adding to their feature set. 

Increase the value of your webinars

Learning businesses must be intentional about what they charge for education products. In some associations, webinars are free for members because they’re a central element of the membership model. Or webinars sponsored by corporate partners are an important part of an association’s non-dues revenue strategy.

Jeff and Celisa said one approach is to not charge for “stand and deliver” informational webinars. But if your webinars deliver more value to attendees, you can definitely charge for them. 

Explore the ideas below from our friends at Tagoras and from the chat box suggestions of fellow webinar attendees. 

Webinar design

Teach speakers how to be educators. You can charge more for more effective learning. On their website, Jeff and Celisa offer a video, Presenting for Impact, to help subject matter experts understand the basic principles of effective instruction. Speakers will appreciate learning skills they can apply in other areas of life. 

Keep attendees engaged. Their inbox, Slack, and to-do list are competing against your webinar for their attention. Spice it up. Like eavesdropping on a good conversation, an exchange between two presenters is more interesting than a monologue.  

Make time for practice. Improve the learning experience by giving attendees a chance to interact with each other, for example, by recalling and applying what they’re learning in breakout rooms. 

Ask for their thoughts. Intersperse polls throughout the program. Share the results. Polls reengage attendees who might have succumbed to multitasking.

Let attendees ask questions. 92% of attendees want a Q&A segment at the end of a webinar, so you need to build in time for a proper Q&A period, at least 10 to 15 minutes. Or take question breaks during the program. 

Experiment with scheduling and duration. Try offering different length webinars at different times of the week. Is 60 minutes too long for some people? Which days of the week or time of day work best? Mix it up so everyone has a chance to attend. 

increase the value of webinars so attendees feel like this young woman who's smiling at her laptop

Webinar experience

Highlight attendees. If there’s one point I’d love for you to take away from this post, it’s this: attendees are part of the value proposition. 

Let them see who else is there. Encourage speakers to call out attendees by name when they have interesting comments or questions. Everyone loves to hear their own name. Plus, a familiar name might wake up a distracted attendee: “Hey, is that Jean from AWBT?”

Turn on chat. A chat box is an enhancement, not a distraction, for many attendees. If they get too caught up in there, they can always watch the replay or read your recap. 

The chat box allows people to:

•    Connect with fellow attendees
•    Contribute by sharing examples, resources, and ideas
•    Ask for advice
•    Get to know and recognize names
•    Message with each other
•    Share LinkedIn profiles

Encourage attendees to arrive ten minutes early if they want to chat with others before the program starts. Keep the chat open for at least ten minutes after the program.

Address poll results. Polls should influence the program. Probe deeper or go off script if you discover something the audience really needs or wants. 

Turn on the Question feature. It’s tough for speakers and moderators to see questions in the chat box. Don’t hide questions from attendees. People like seeing what others are asking.

Take advantage of breakout rooms. Give small groups an opportunity to discuss and practice what they’ve learned. Plus, attendees want the chance to connect with a small group of people.

Prep them for real learning. Ask attendees to suggest next steps for putting new knowledge and ideas into action. New information will disappear if they don’t use it. 

Pre-event experience

Only 40% of registrants show up for webinars, so take advantage of first impressions. Send a poll that drives session content. Tell them you want to tailor the program to their most urgent needs. 

Ask for stories you can share live: “Has anyone ever...?” Get a sense of their experience level, if that matters. Invite them to bring questions, comments, and real-life experiences to the program.

Post-event experience

Before the webinar ends, give attendees a takeaway tool, for example, an implementation guide for a new regulation.

In a follow-up email, thank them for coming and include the takeaway tool again. Link to a recap blog post or a special landing page with related resources, such as information about upcoming education programs, blog posts, on-demand videos, and publications.

If the webinar was sponsored, collaborate with your revenue partner on resources, perhaps relevant content on their site, such as case studies, papers, or blog posts.

Email a quick survey. Focus on open-ended feedback, such as what they want to know more about or discuss with others. Use ChatGPT to summarize the responses. 

Send individual emails to attendees who contributed more resources, questions, and ideas than others. Thank them for the value they added to the program.

Gauge interest for a follow-up virtual discussion group. For example, after they’ve had time to apply or practice what they’ve learned, they could meet again to share successes, challenges, and next steps.

Schedule an encore presentation with a live facilitator (or original speakers). Stop the recording intermittently for discussion time. 

Webinar marketing

Words matter. Thanks to boring presentations, the word “webinar” has baggage. Everyone has some idea about what to expect from a webinar. If you’re offering something different, experiment with different words. I’ve seen the following used in the association community: 

•    Ask the Expert
•    Expert Series
•    Workshop
•    Fireside Chat
•    Master Class

Celisa said, “The experience and value are different so let the name reflect that.” Also, make sure the webinar description focuses on the value the attendee will receive and how your webinar differs from the standard offering.

What kind of webinar experience will cause your audience to sit up and pay attention when the announcement lands in their inbox? That’s the kind of reaction you’re aiming for. Don’t design webinars to fill up the calendar. Design webinars that make attendees feel more energized, knowledgeable, and connected than when they arrived.

online learning
virtual education
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